When a client requests a copy of their records

Ms Miriam Wyzenbeek, Former Professional Officer, HPCA

We frequently receive complaints from individuals who have requested from their current or prior treating psychologist access to their client record, but for whatever reason, this request has been denied by the psychologist.

As per the Australian Psychological Society (APS) Code of Ethics, standard A.6., “A.6. Psychologists, with consideration of legislative exceptions and their organisational requirements, do not refuse any reasonable request from clients, or former clients, to access client information, for which the psychologists have professional responsibility”. 

Individual organisations will have varying policies about how clients can formally go about seeking a copy of their records, for example, that the client must submit a formal written request. Once the request has been received and approved, it may be preferable that the psychologist be present with the client when allowing the client to first review their record. This enables the psychologist to offer support as required, clarify any areas of concern and answer any questions that the client may have. However, this is not a requirement and the client can reasonably decline this offer and still gain access to their record. The psychologist may also seek to clarify from the client what information they are after. For example, the client may not in fact want their full client record, but rather, components of it. Importantly, psychologists should not be unreasonably obstructive in allowing clients to gain access to their records. Psychologists are reminded to be mindful of the content and language of their records and advised that, should the client request a copy, they are required to maintain a duplicate copy of the client’s records as per the duration stipulated in the APS Code of Ethics for adult and child clients.